UPDATE: According to the ASPCA, there were 105 dogs sheltered at Safe Haven when the organization arrived to take over operations on Oct. 16. Since then, the ASPCA says they assisted in placing 86 dogs, which includes adoptions and relocation to other shelters and rescue groups. The ASPCA says 19 dogs were humanely euthanized on Thursday. The remaining 22 dogs were transported to shelters and rescue groups throughout Delaware, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and New Jersey where they will be housed, cared for and eventually made available for adoption. Additionally, two dogs were adopted directly from Safe Haven. The shelter is now closed.
Lynn Lofthouse, a member of the Safe Haven board of directors, released a statement to the media Friday afternoon confirming the dogs were euthanized. There is still no word on why the shelter decided to close early.
Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary's no-kill philosophy was compromised Thursday when dogs were reportedly euthanized at the Georgetown facility.
A post made around 7 p.m. Thursday on the shelter's now-deleted Facebook page states that some dogs, due to severe behavior issues, were such a threat to other animals or humans that they were unsuitable for adoption.
"Some dogs were humanely euthanized," the post reads. "We are grateful for all of the lives that were saved and the support that we received during this difficult time."
Even though officials at Safe Haven told the public they would be adopting out dogs through the end of the month, the doors of the shelter are now locked and all the kennels are empty.
Without notice, workers from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which took over day-to-day operations at the shelter last month, loaded the dogs that were not euthanized into several vehicles Thursday afternoon and drove them to an undisclosed location.
The number of dogs that were euthanized and the number that were transported have not yet been made available to the public.
A statement released Friday by the ASPCA says at Safe Haven's request, the organization responded to the shelter on Oct. 16 to deploy a team of professionals to assist in the daily care – feeding, watering and exercising – of dogs housed at the shelter. According to the statement, the ASPCA conducted behavior evaluations of the dogs to help Safe Haven determine their placement options.
"Safe Haven was responsible for the ultimate outcome of each animal," the statement reads. "With help from Delaware's extended sheltering and rescue community, an overwhelming majority of these dogs were eventually placed or adopted."
The ASPCA confirmed Safe Haven's post regarding dogs that were euthanized because they were deemed unsuitable for adoption.
"The last of Safe Haven's dogs were transported to shelters and rescue groups where they can be housed, cared for and eventually made available for adoption," the statement reads.
Page 2 of 3 - The ASPCA did not specify where the dogs were taken.
Several local animal advocates traveled to the shelter, located at 19022 Shingle Point Road, on Thursday after they were told, reportedly by Safe Haven officials, they could adopt the remaining dogs. However these people were turned away by the ASPCA, who eventually called the Delaware State Police and reported the prospective adopters were trespassing on private property.
Jamie Werner, a former Safe Haven employee, said he went to the shelter to adopt a dog he'd bonded with while working there.
"All I know is they told everybody to come save the dogs," Werner said. "I came to save a dog and now I'm being told they'd rather kill it."
Speculations surrounding whether the ASPCA was euthanizing the remaining dogs onsite were initially discounted by Capt. Sean Moriarty of DSP Troop 4 in Georgetown. Moriarty said he saw the dogs inside a large ASPCA truck, and they were all alive.
"I'm not sure exactly where they're going; mostly out of state. Some are going to a facility in the state, but we don't know where," Moriarty said on Thursday at Safe Haven. "[The police] are here to make sure everybody is safe and everybody is okay. Obviously we don't have any control over where they're going to go or what the policies are. We're just here to make sure everybody is safe."
It is unclear at this time how many dogs were transported out of Safe Haven. Last week, Lynn Lofthouse, a member of the shelter's board of directors, told The Sussex Countian there were 70 dogs remaining in the shelter and they would be available for adoption until the shelter closed its doors on Nov. 30. However, the advocates at Safe Haven on Thursday claim there were about 20 dogs left in the shelter.
Tacia McIlvaine, of Seaford, went to Safe Haven on Thursday after she was reportedly told by a Safe Haven official that she could adopt two of the remaining dogs. Like the others, she was turned away by the ASPCA.
"The ASPCA told the police the dogs I was here to get were not in the building, and they had already been placed on transport," she said. "I just don't know what to say. We wanted to get these dogs out of here. There have been people here to adopt the dogs and they won't allow anybody to do it."
Lisa St. Clair, of the recently-formed Delaware No Kill Alliance, also went to Safe Haven Thursday to adopt two dogs. St. Clair said all she wants is to know where the dogs are being taken.
"I feel helpless and scared and hopeless," she said. "All we've asked for is a list of the rescues they're taking them to. I think that's a pretty reasonable thing. The ASPCA is the liaison and they're not authorized to give us any information."
Page 3 of 3 - Lofthouse did not respond to several phone calls requesting comment for this report.